Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


ABN Amro places CSR at heart of its business

November 2004

One of Europe’s largest banks has reorganized its head office to put more resources into its social and environmental performance.

Netherlands-based ABN Amro has created a dedicated sustainable development team in its risk management department of 19 persons, of whom seven now deal with social and environmental issues, providing the company with a focus point for implementing new policies.

Madeleine Jacobs, group head of sustainable development, told EP the move was ‘a big thing’ for the bank. ‘It’s a joining of forces under a different governance model,’ she said. ‘We used to have sustainable development professionals at group level in corporate communications and in risk management, but we’ve combined those resources to create a team reinforced with further resources.’

Jacobs said the formation of the new team within risk management, regarded by the bank as a ‘core competence’, recognized the importance of sustainable development. ‘We believe that to have true sustainable development in the organization it has to be supported by more resources at group level.’

The new team, set up as a ‘knowledge centre and catalyst for initiatives’, will oversee group-wide CSR strategy, stakeholder engagement and reporting, and will help the bank’s business units, including its investment arms, to integrate sustainable development policies into general business practice. All business units already have at least one person assigned full time to sustainable development.

ABN Amro, which is listed in the UK and the US, has also created a sustainability network to enable staff across the group to share information. Managerial performance contracts will include sustainability development objectives.

During the next year the team will develop a bank-wide programme to raise staff awareness on sustainability, attempt to increase the number of bank products addressing environmental, social and ethical issues, and develop support for initiatives and businesses in clean energy technologies.

The bank, which had net profits of €1.5billion ($1.9bn, £1bn) on total revenues of €18.8bn last year, has more than 3700 branches in 60 countries.

It is already relatively well advanced on CSR issues, and was one of the banks that initiated the Equator Principles, which set out social and environmental investment standards for financial institutions. Internally it has developed policies on forestry and mining investment and lending, and is developing similar investment guidelines for the oil and gas sector.

ABN Amro’s Banco Real in Brazil has received a $51million (£28.3m) credit line from the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, for lending to socially and environmentally responsible projects. Banco Real’s formal credit approval process is based in part on a social and environmental financing policy which details how the bank determines whether a loan or project in which it has an interest is ‘environmentally sound and sustainable’.


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